By Bloomberg, Leslie Ann Aquino, and Hanah Tabios
The Philippines has barred doctors, nurses, and other health workers from leaving for overseas work as the nation seeks to stem the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Bureau of Immigration.
The temporary halt follows an sends thousands of medical practitioners to work overseas, must now reinforce the national healthcare system overwhelmed by the pandemic and weakened by deaths and infection of more than 200 health workers.
The nation only has six doctors for every 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, one of the lowest in the region. Singapore’s ratio is almost 23 and Malaysia at 15.36.
The ban covers 12 other jobs including medical equipment operation and repair.
More than 30,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and caregivers left the Philippines in 2010, according to the latest available data.
Priests are frontliners too
Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos revealed that one of his priests is a person under monitoring (PUM) because he did the blessing of a hospital intended for COVID-19 patients.
The prelate himself celebrated the funeral mass for the first casualty of COVID-19 in Bataan.
“We are committed to go to hospitals for sick calls, to do funerals, and to bless urns,” said Santos.
“It is only the doors of the churches which are closed. But our priests here are mandated to go out to help and be of service, especially to the elderly. I asked them to be visible,” he added.
According to the prelate, this is also the reason they asked their local government to give them quarantine pass for them to go around the parishes during the enhanced community quarantine.
Santos said priests in the Diocese of Balanga recently waived their monthly stipends for two months, some even three, for the sake of the diocesan employees and personnel.
“Each one of them have shown how committed they are to living the Gospel through their vowed life. It was a clear manifestation of humility, charity, and kindness,” he said.
“Now is the most appropriate time to translate our words into actions.” he added.
The diocese also set aside sacks of rice and bags of groceries especially for the indigenous people.
Veteran actress-scriptwriter Bibeth Orteza paid tribute to her brother, Dr. Ephraim Neal Orteza, who died of COVID-19 on Wednesday. He was the medical director and pediatrician of Ospital ng Parañaque.
In Facebook post, Bibeth described her loving relationship with her younger brother.
“Bimboy was my best friend and best enemy when we were growing up,” she wrote.
She said her brother would often earn praises from their mother for being studious, not to mention that Ephraim had always dreamed of becoming a doctor.
“Until the day he put the frozen cat he was dissecting inside our refrigerator freezer,” she added.
Bibeth even looked back to the day when her brother re-married his wife, Imelda Olivarez, in the Philippines, where Ephraim was able to bring her mother-in-law, the late veteran actress Armina Siguion-Reyna, to his church wedding.
“He asked my mother-in-law to be one of his ninangs. And as you know, Armida didn’t go to our wedding,” she said.
Bibeth is the wife of Armida’s eldest son film director Carlitos Siguion Reyna.
“Before the reception ended, he whispered to me, “Talo kita. Si Tita Armida nasa wedding album ko. Sa iyo, wala! Hahahahaha!,” she recalled.
The veteran writer also shared that her brother was once an activist at the University of the Philippines, the same way that put his own life on the line to fightt for the lives of his patients until his last breath.
“Manang Bibeth is so very, very proud.”